Sharing and recognising our partner success

Farmers AgriCare (FAC) Port Shepstone are a regional Andermatt Madumbi Champion Depot and the recipients of the 2020 Green Jersey Award in the FAC distribution network.

FAC Port Shepstone is well established and consists of a team of three agents. Their individual and collective strengths, offer growers the benefit of expertise and experience in their unique climatic region which includes the Oribi area and extends from Harding to Port Edward.

When acknowledging the depot’s success and growth in biological solutions, Matt redirected the conversation to Marko Sukkels, who in his own words, is the ‘driver’ of the root health and biological conversation at the depot.

What a pleasure to have an excuse to visit this beautiful part of the country! It was clear as I was driving through hilly banana plantations with newly planted macadamia orchards on either side and the vast blue sea ahead, that I was in the right place. This unique region of the country has a climate ideally suited to the planting of macadamias and the new crop is transforming the landscape at a rapid pace.

Marko joined FAC Port Shepstone three years ago. With a B.Sc. in Microbiology he is naturally passionate about microbes, soil health and diversity. His approach to farming is holistic, encompassing overall tree health and starting from the bottom up. He is quick to acknowledge that there is no ‘silver bullet’ and there are no quick fix solutions. In his view, a sustainable integrated approach is the solution and is a puzzle that still needs to be built. As our knowledge of all the variables grow, as we navigate through the continual flux, change and demands that every new season brings, across a range of growers with unique soils, conditions and challenges, we are slowly able to solve more and more of this puzzle.

In his bottom up approach, Marko starts with the physical factors of the soil i.e. compaction, mulching and root health. The beneficial microbes Trichoderma and Bacillus, along with vermicompost form the foundation of his root health program, followed with humates and fulvics for feeding. This speaks directly to the need for biodiversity in the soil, slowly building crusted soils which flocculate and precede earthworm activity.

Marko describes his farmer base as a combination of old and new. 70% of the orchards are young trees not yet bearing, other orchards are large and mature. Growers are over-whelmed with options, choosing partners and the best solution for each challenge is ongoing. Marko’s approach is simple ‘Do what’s best for the farmer’ and build trust.

Advocating and driving sustainable solutions is in everyone’s best interest and on the whole Marko has little resistance from his growers on a biological approach. However, on-farm priorities and limited resources, (particularly on non-bearing orchards) may result in growers viewing the approach as ‘nice to have’ as opposed to ‘need to have’. His solution here lies in collecting data and measuring. Farmers talk and learn from one another, share their knowledge and share success stories.

FAC Port Shepstone provides scouting, pruning and calibration services to growers. Their scouting teams are quick to advise on pest activity and the team’s approach to real IPM integration starts with physical control, biological control and then chemical control.

The FAC Port Shepstone team is well established in the area, offering reputably good service and support. Marko attributes this to his team. Their customer-focused approach sees them each supporting their own client base, which at times overlaps but they always have one-another’s backs. The three agents each have their own areas of excellence, pooling and sharing this knowledge elevates the team allowing them to offer the best solutions and growing support in the area.

As with all agricultural regions, community is a key focus. The South Coast has had more than its fair share of challenges over the past years and months. The team are committed to supporting their community, appreciating and maximising the quality of life that the region offers. With bodyboarding, surfing, motorbiking, fishing, squash and kick-boxing as some of this team’s social activities, it’s clear they also view human health holistically.

Andermatt Madumbi is proud to support and acknowledge the success of this team, a true example of ‘Healthy Food and Healthy Environment, for all’.